A while ago, I wrote about the big rocks of fat loss and exercise. I was looking from the 10,000-foot view to let you know what’s important and what’s not. Now I’m doing the same for cardio. If you need a refresher on the big rocks, watch this video. 

And check out the 90’s fashion, it’s on point.

When it comes to exercise and the goals you want to achieve, you (and me) sometimes sweat the small stuff and forget about what’s important. You fill your jar with gravel, sand and water and end up having no room for the big rocks.

With all the information available on cardio and the endless debates on the internet, it’s easy to get sidetracked and overwhelmed. But this takes you away from what’s important about cardio.

And this stops now.

So, get on a plane and take in the cardio view from 10,000 feet and admire the big rocks. And once you do, getting sidetracked will be a thing of the past.

First a Few Benefits Of Cardio (Besides the Obvious)

Cardio is great for your health, keeping your head on straight and for reducing your stress, anxiety while burning a few calories too. Getting your sweat on helps to reduce mild to moderate depression, dementia, anxiety, and even reduces cognitive issues in schizophrenia.

Plus, getting your heart rate up keeps us sharp physically and mentally as we age too. For example,

Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging performed a longitudinal study of 375 women and 435 men ages 21 to 87 years over a period of 7.9 years. They measured the rate of change in aerobic capacity (VO 2 max) and the influence of age, gender, and physical activity on these changes.

They found a decline in peak VO2 in the 6 age decades in both sexes; however, the rate of decline accelerated from 3% to 6% per 10 years in the 20’s and 30’s to more than 20% per 10 years in the 70’s. The rate of decline for each decade was larger in men than women from the 40’s onward. (1)

Cardiovascular exercise is essential If you want to keep up with the young whippersnappers of this world.  

Cardio And Mental Health

Cardiovascular activities like jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. (2) 

And here’s proof.

James Blumenthal, a neuroscientist at Duke University gathered 156 adults suffering from mild to moderate depression and split them into 3 groups.

One- Treated with drugs only

Two – Combination of drugs and aerobic exercise

Three- Aerobic exercise only

He concluded aerobic exercise worked as equally well as treating depression as it did with drugs. Plus, combining the two treatments yielded the same success rate as doing either one individually.

Not only did exercise work like a drug, but he also followed up with 83 of these adults 6 months later and those in the exercise group only 8% had relapsed back into depression. (3)

Researchers also discovered that for every 50 minutes of exercise added each week, the rate of depression fell by half. This holds true if you’re already a dedicated exerciser too. (4)

Cardio is so much more than burning calories for fat loss or for punishment for what you ate last night.

3 Big Rocks Of Cardio

This is my view from all my experiences as a lifelong exerciser and from 12 years of coaching. If your experiences are different, leave a comment below. I would love to know your thoughts.

1. Cardio Mode Is Unimportant

There’s always discussion on what cardio mode is better. Is running better than walking or is the rowing machine better than the bike? This is often looked at from a calorie burning standpoint and not a health standpoint. Yes, burning calories is essential if you have vanity goals but from a health angle, it’s less important.

Because you’ll get the same cardiovascular health benefits from the treadmill, rowing machine, bike, or Zumba class. What is important is getting your heart rate up and not the method you use to get your heart rate up. Which leads me to my next point.

2.  Fun Leads To Consistency

According to Michelle Segar, author of No Sweat, enjoyment is the best motivator for exercise. “Logic doesn’t motivate us; emotions do,” says Segar.

People who exercise for enjoyment stick with it more than those who do it for medical reasons.  When you enjoy something, you’re more likely to do it again and cardio is one of those things.

But I hate cardio, I hear you cry out. Guess what, me too but we all know it’s good for us, like bad tasting medicine.   So, if you don’t find cardio fun, find what you hate the least. For me it’s using things like kettlebells, medicine balls and complexes to get my heart rate up. 

I have nothing against cardio machines, they just bore me to tears. Here are two examples below.

Kettlebell Swings/Medicine Ball Slam Combo

This duo will get your heart racing because the heart is working double time pushing blood from the lower to the upper body and back again.

Instructions

Do this as a countdown superset. Do 20 reps each of the swings and the slams and go down by two each time you perform a round until you reach two reps for each exercise (for example 20-18-16-14….2).

Dumbbell Complex

But in my book getting 8000 to 12,000 steps per day is the best cardio and stress reliever there is and it’s so simple. All you must do is get your walking shoes on and move.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

3.  Your Intensity Depends On Time And Preference

The two main types of cardio are high intensity and steady state cardio. They are both broken up into subcategories but for the sake of this article we’ll stick to those. The main differences between them are time and duration. One is short, sweet, and intense and the other is longer and less intense.

Steady state cardio for 20 minutes or longer bores me to tears. Yes, I can do it, but will I do it consistently? Probably not so I stick with the high intensity type. It’s not a matter of time just preference.

If you’re highly stressed, adding to this with HIIT is not your best bet. Better to stick with the steady state and its stress reducing benefits. But if you’re time crunched and steady state cardio bores you too, then HIIT maybe better fit for you.

But I hear you say HIIT is better for fat loss and health and steady state sucks. Well sorry to break it to you but both are good for fat loss. So, it’s a matter of time and preference. And if you can do both, great but if you can’t, then the benefits from both are the same.

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it. Did you enjoy your little 10,000-foot view? Because when you look at the bigger picture all the bickering about what’s best seems pointless. Now get on your cardio shoes and move, even if it’s Zumba.

References

1.    Jerome L Fleg 1, et.al. Accelerated longitudinal decline of aerobic capacity in healthy older adults. Circulation. 2005 Aug 2;112(5):674-82. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.105.545459. Epub 2005 Jul 25.

2.    Monika Guszkowska 1 [Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood]. Psychiatr Pol. Jul-Aug 2004;38(4):611-20.

3.    MICHAEL BABYAK, PHD, Et al. Exercise Treatment for Major Depression: Maintenance of Therapeutic Benefit at 10 Months

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